Katrina And The Waves will forever hold a special place in the hearts of the UK public. Their 1985 hit Walking On Sunshine is a perennial summertime favourite and they remain as the last UK act to win the annual Eurovision Song Contest, in 1997, with Shine A Little Light, at a time when it was less of a “vote-for-your-friends” popularity contest.
Now Katrina is back, with Hearts, Loves & Babys, her first solo album for six years, out now on her own Katsweb label. Katrina has written, or co-written, nine of the ten tracks and Hearts, Loves & Babys is a deeply personal look into Katrina’s world dealing with a host of topics from life, love, relationships and bereavement to the simple pleasures of jumping into the car and hitting the open road. The passion Katrina brings to each track makes this an exceptional and compelling collection with songs that the audience will be able to relate to.
“Oh yes,” Katrina told me, “I was digging deep. I’m a very private person but a strong person with a bit of a soft core. I think some of that probably came out – kind of surprised me as much as anyone! Sometimes it’s painful to go there. I don’t want to think about death, I want to think about something fun to cheer me up!” she laughs.
“Or a road trip! I was dreaming about a road trip. I love to take the car out and drive across the south-west of America, don’t know if you’ve ever done that? One of my absolute favourite things, just to drive and not even have a plan.”
While the opening track, Drive, is the perfect antidote to the lockdown Katrina does dig deep with some pretty personal stuff, none more so than two songs about her mum.
“A song like Crazy Mama was really fun to write,” she laughs, “and I’ve already ordered the wig! I can’t wait to make some visuals to this, get out there and re-enact the whole thing because my mother was completely crazy. My mother was eccentric and liked to do her own thing. As a child it could sometimes be embarrassing but as I got older I started to completely relate to unorthodox “crazy” behaviour and really embrace it. I just upped it, turned it on, turned her up to 11, exaggerated all the things about her and had fun with it. I can’t wait to play it live.”
By contrast, Move On is about her mum’s passing and, as I lost my own mum a couple of years ago, found the song extremely relatable. “That was a tough one, writing that… because that was about my mother and a long, painful death from cancer. She had six children, ‘Stop hanging on, just move on, let it go, go ahead and go through.’ Sometimes you can feel people just hanging on through lots of pain. I call it a death-bed lullaby, sitting at the side of the bed with someone saying ‘It’s OK to go.’ We’re all gonna go.
“I think by the time you reach my age you do start figuring things out, you start seeing the end and you start thinking about how you’re impacted by stuff that, maybe a lot of it, you just want to wash over you, to not affect you. I’m a very private person, and a strong person, a strong person but with a bit of a soft core.
“I think some of that soft core probably came out – kind of surprised me as much as anyone, when you dig deep and that stuff comes out. Sometimes it’s painful to go there. It’s all very private and I tried to come up with an album somewhere between heartfelt, sentimental, good old-fashioned love songs and then something that’s really fun, like Drive. There’s a song called Holiday, a tongue-in-cheek drinking song that celebrates every single day as if it is a holiday even though it is highlighting some of the less celebrated aspects of life today.”
On a serious note Who We Are looks at family relationships. “Relationships of any kind, spouse, girlfriend or a child, it always seems like a fairytale, you fall in love and things work out. It’s a tricky road, it’s a tough road and it’s always presenting challenges. It’s enough to deal with yourself as a changing being moving through your life and your world, and then you bring someone else into it, and they have a changing life, dealing with exactly the same things. What I was trying to say in the song is just look me in the eye, this is real, whatever it takes, we’re gonna pull through and we’re gonna make it.”
While Drive provides a great post-lockdown fillip, Hearts, Loves & Babys has been in production for some time, as Katrina explains. “All the songs were written before lockdown, it was quite a long process, I decided I was going to write all the songs and do some pre-production with a friend of mine in New York City, Jimi Bones, who has worked quite a bit with Blondie and Deborah Harry. The first idea for the album was I wanted it to have a city feel. I live in London, so I feel as though I have that covered. I thought it would be fun to fly to New York, go into the studio and just work the songs out. So that was the pre-production.
“Then I brought it all back to my guy here in London and that’s when we did all the vocals. It’s really great to be able to put vocals down with someone you absolutely trust, even though they may need to kick your butt a little more than you would like! We always get a good result and so the whole process took two years.
“I have been with this band, now, as long as I was with The Waves. My boys, my English boys! Although one guy is Irish. We make a very good sound together and that doesn’t always happen but it’s been so, with them, and we have a lot of fun and they’re just incredibly good. The guitar player is Darren Loveday, he’s the guy I do all the vocals with and definitely my right hand man. We wrote a couple of the songs together including Drive.
“It’s great to have a team of guys that you can count on. Having been in The Waves for twenty years, that was the thing that took the most getting used to, for me, that there wasn’t the team. People talk about being in a bubble, in this business, and we were in the bubble together and then I was in my bubble alone. That was kind of… tricky. It’s nice to be part of the team. I love the boys and I love the camaraderie, the ease that you get to feel when you trust people with your self, your life and your music.”
A great album, much to enjoy and to finish a small epic in Willing, with shades of her West Coast musical roots. “I think I was reading too much John Steinbeck. He always has these ridiculous characters who are doing just unthinking, spur-of-the-moment, crazy things, setting shacks on fire. It was inspired by Cannery Row and I thought ‘OK, let’s get a story going here, let’s get a bit Neil Young and a bit Joni Mitchell, a crazy story of what a crazy person would do.’
“The California fires are burning and the only way to get back down to Santa Cruz to your loved one is to get in that river and swim and it’s total madness! It was just a blast, six minutes of just a crazy story. I never really finished it , it needs one more verse but the mystery is you leave it to the listener to decide…”
Hearts, Loves & Babys is out now on Katrina’s own Katsweb label and is available from www.katrinasweb.com